Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

How To Handle Lazy Employees

Businessman sleeping at deskLast week I posted a blog that got a lot of comments, it was called: On The Intolerance Of Mediocrity. One of the folks that shared some feedback indicated that he was struggling with employees that were, shall we say, less than extremely motivated. I was beginning to write out a reply to him and realized it was probably best to post it as a blog so that everyone could see my ideas and comment as well. Here are my suggestions for dealing with lackadaisical employees.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do they have clear, specific and measurable performance expectations?
  2. Have those expectations been exceedingly well communicated to them?
  3. Have they agreed to deliver those expectations?
  4. Do they have all the training, tools and support necessary to achieve those expectations?
  5. Are they held rigorously accountable for achieving those expectations?
  6. Do they get positive reinforcement for positive behavior and negative reinforcement for negative behavior?
  7. Do they understand the impact their behavior is having on the overall business?
  8. Do they understand the impact their behavior is having on the rest of the employees?
  9. Do they realize what is at stake if they do not meet expectations?
  10. Do they understand all of the positive ramifications if they exceed expectations?

These are just 10 questions to get you thinking, but if you’ve got employees who are not delivering the required results, I would look over this list and see if there is any place where you have not given them what they need to succeed. It’s one of the things I learned a long time ago as a young manager, if one of my people is not performing the way I want them to, it is my fault. Either I hired the wrong person, did not train them well enough, did not explain what I really wanted, didn’t give them the tools or support they needed… it was always something that I did wrong and I simply had to take accountability and ownership for fixing the situation. If you do the same, I’m confident you will get a positive resolution, one way or the other.

I hope you found this helpful in a very much look forward to your comments – John

20 Questions To Make Better Business Decisions

8D9xPlllM2WzeTfM4McZ-Tl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBU8NzMXDbey6A_oozMjJETcYears ago I attended a class on Precision Questioning and Precision Answering, it was a tough class but I learned a lot. One of the most important things I learned, which I had experienced many times in the business world, is that very few people use a process in order to make important decisions, they just go with general ideas and a gut feel. Again, from years of experience, I have watched many senior executives make huge decisions, multi-million-dollar decisions, not using any kind of a formal process for organizing their thinking. Here is a list of 20 questions I use when helping organizations to make important business decisions.

  1. What is the real timeframe for this decision?
  2. Who needs to be involved in making this decision?
  3. Who does not need to be involved in making this decision?
  4. Can this decision be overridden by a person higher in the organization?
  5. If so, why are they not making this decision?
  6. Do we have the data necessary to support making a good decision?
  7. How do we know that the data is reliable and up-to-date?
  8. Do we have the financial numbers necessary to make this decision?
  9. If so, how do we know that they are accurate and up-to-date?
  10. Who else in the organization will be impacted by this decision?
  11. Do they need to be involved in making this decision?
  12. How, specifically, will we implement this decision?
  13. What metrics will we use to track success or failure?
  14. Who, specifically, will be responsible for the implementation of this decision?
  15. What is the real timeline for the overall implementation of this decision?
  16. What do we expect, specifically, as a successful outcome from this decision?
  17. Is there anything we would have to stop doing or change in order to implement this decision?
  18. Will this decision have a major impact on our brand in the marketplace?
  19. Well this decision have a major impact on our customers?
  20. What are the ramifications if this decision is wrong or poorly implemented?

If you have to make a major decision in your organization I strongly encourage you to use this list of questions in order to ensure that you are making a good decision. I can’t guarantee that the decision will work out perfectly, but I can almost surely guarantee that if you don’t go over this list and at least entertain several of the key questions, there will be a good chance that the decision will fail.

Are there any questions that I missed?

On The Intolerance Of Mediocrity

5117ec57cab7b.imageI have spent the last 20 years of my career studying excellence. I have read dozens if not hundreds of books on the topic, interviewed CEOs, Olympic gold medalists, artists, musicians and other people who have achieved preeminence in their field. I especially enjoy spending time with world-class chefs who are insanely focused on producing only the finest dishes they can humanly make. Recently I read an article from one of the top chefs in the world that discussed how he built his restaurant into one of the most revered eateries on the face of the earth.

His simple four-step formula for excellence?

  1. Strive every day to be the best in the world.
  2. Be completely intolerant of mediocrity.
  3. Constantly innovate and push the envelope.
  4. Deliver a truly world-class dining experience to every customer.

I read that list and thought to myself that you could pretty much copy it, change number four a little bit, and it would apply to being excellent in nearly any business. But I have one big problem, its number two, something I believe in very strongly, but can cause a tremendous amount of stress in your life.

For those of us who want to be highly regarded at what we do, I believe it takes a complete intolerance of mediocrity, both in yourself and in those you work with. However, taking on that attitude means that you will often be frustrated and sometimes be seen as too aggressive or even a bully. I have been mentoring a young man that wants to be one of the top 10 chefs in the world and during a recent breakfast he asked me, “If I become one of the best chefs in the world, will any of the people that work for me like me?” And I quickly answered, “No, they will think you’re an asshole.” I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. In order for him to demand near perfection and be completely intolerant of anything less than excellent, he will have to step on a lot of toes and bruise a lot of egos.

Which brings me back to…me.

I struggle mightily with this idea. I coach all my clients to stop tolerating mediocrity and to remove anyone on their team that is not a solid contributor to the success of the organization. According to a recent test I took, I literally broke the scale on self-competitiveness, so I obviously have no problem (or perhaps it is a problem) in pushing myself very hard to achieve excellent results. But I will say that my focus on making myself and my company absolutely the best I possibly can does make it extremely hard on the people that work with me and the vendors we do business with. I am accused by many of being too harsh, unrealistic and overly demanding – which part of me takes is a great compliment and the other part of me feels almost embarrassed about because I know how difficult it can be to work with me.

In the end though, I know that to achieve a high level of success I must be unwilling to settle for mediocrity. On the other hand I am coming to the realization that the distance between “Mediocrity – Good – Great – World-Class” has a lot of room for delivering fantastic work, without having to be constantly stressed and frustrated over not delivering world-class work. I understand now that driving for near perfection can often times drive people into the ground, yet if I challenge them to deliver the best they possibly can a level that I can accept as really, really great work – then I don’t have to be an ass. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but one that I’m working on.

What about you?

 

*** By the way, I have written a short and focused e-book with my best ideas and tools to help you build and sustain a winning culture in your organization. It sells for just $4.99. If you’d like to learn more about the book here is a link: Winning Culture e-book

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The High Cost of Poor Leadership

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I was recently asked by one of my clients to put together some statistics on the cost of bad leadership and the upside of excellent leadership. He needed this information so that he could help support an investment in hiring me to do an advanced leadership training workshop for his organization. I think that intuitively, most people understand that subpar leaders/managers obviously have a negative impact on the organization. However, when you look at how big the cost of poor leadership really is, then you begin to re-examine the importance of leadership development within the company. In order to review the high cost of poor leadership, I am sharing the information I sent to my client:

Poor leadership practices cost companies millions of dollars each year by negatively impacting employee retention, customer satisfaction, and overall employee productivity.

Evidence of the High Cost of Poor Leadership

According to research from the Blanchard Company:

  • Less-than-optimal leadership practices cost the typical organization an amount equal to as much as 7% of their total annual sales.
  • At least 9% and possibly as much as 32% of an organization’s voluntary turnover can be avoided through better leadership skills.
  • Better leadership can generate a 3-4% improvement in customer satisfaction scores and a corresponding 1.5% increase in revenue growth.
  • Most organizations are operating with a 5-10% productivity drag that better leadership practices could eliminate.

From other sources:

  • It’s a sad truth about the workplace: just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report indicates that 50% of employees merely put their time in, while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counterproductive ways, negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year. The single greatest cause for employee disengagement? Poor leadership.
  • Authors Rosen and Brown, for their book Leading People, compiled findings from more than a dozen studies that focused on leading companies from the Forbes 500, Fortune 500, seven hundred privately-held firms, and interviews at the three thousand largest companies in America, and Rosen and Brown found that current leadership is costing American companies more than half their human potential. To put that another way, improved leadership alone could double worker productivity. This translates directly to the bottom line. The single biggest influence on employee commitment and performance is the leadership skills of their managers.

From Harvard:

Quite simply, the better the leader, the more engaged the staff. Take, for example, results from a recent study we did on the effectiveness of 2,865 leaders in a large financial services company.

You can see a straight-line correlation here between levels of employee engagement and our measure of the overall effectiveness of their supervisors (as judged not just by the employees themselves but also by their bosses, colleagues, and other associates on 360 assessments). So, as you can see at the low end, the satisfaction, engagement, and commitment levels of employees toiling under the worst leaders (those at or below the 10th percentile) reached only the 4th percentile. (That means 96% of the company’s employees were more committed than those mumbling, grumbling, unhappy souls.) At the other end, the best leaders (those in the 90th percentile) were supervising the happiest, most engaged, and most committed employees — those happier than more than 92% of their colleagues.

*By Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

Employee Engagement croppedPreventative Action for the High Cost of Poor Leadership

It would be easy to deliver another twenty pages of statistics showing both the negative and positive impact of leadership. Even if some of these numbers are skewed, the impact of the high cost of poor leadership is still so significant that it warrants serious attention. I would suggest that for most companies today, a focus on improving leadership skills and creating a winning culture that engages employees is likely the single greatest area for organizational improvement, and the fastest way to decrease costs and increase profitability. The high cost of poor leadership cannot be ignored.


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

Three BIG Ideas On The Future Of Business

GTD_630822I am now entering my 21st year as a management thinker, author, adviser and professional speaker on the core topics around business excellence. As with nearly everyone in my line of work, I consider Peter Drucker one of the most important business thinkers of all time and have carefully studied all of his work. Each year in Vienna, Austria they host a global forum to talk about Drucker’s work and how it will impact the future of business. In a recent article on Forbes online Steve Denning (who is presenting at the Forum) wrote:

“We have arrived at a turning point,” says the launch abstract of the Global Peter Drucker Forum 2014. “Either the world will embark on a route towards long-term growth and prosperity, or we will manage our way to economic decline.” We* believe the three most important issues that the Forum should address are:

• Should firms make the shift from the goal of maximizing shareholder value as measured by the current stock price to a principal focus on adding value to those for whom the work is being done?
• Should organizations make the shift from the practices of hierarchical bureaucracy to the collaborative leadership and management practices of the Creative Economy?
• Should organizations make a shift from metrics that reflect narrow financial goals to metrics that reflect contributions to prosperity of individuals, organizations and society, for achieving both purpose and profit?
*several of the key presenters at the event

Just a few weeks ago I attended the Abundance 360 Summit in Los Angeles hosted by Peter Diamandis and featuring several dozen of the world’s top thought leaders on artificial intelligence, computer learning, the Internet of Things, robotics, augmented reality, virtual reality, and human longevity. We spent three days exploring how major innovations in these areas will change not only the business world, but the entire world. I left that meeting with my head swirling and three big ideas that captured my attention:

1. It is not a case of if these mind-blowing innovations will occur, it’s simply a matter of when, and if businesses today are even slightly prepared for how it’s going to dramatically change nearly everything about the way they do business. Seriously, this is not hyperbole, the new innovations coming in just the next few years will touch every sector of business in the world. For some businesses it will mean minor adjustments, others will have to be completely reimagined and many others…will no longer exist.

2. The future of business is Smart Machines (advanced machines, driven by self-learning computers, connected to the Internet of things through the cloud, which connects every computer on earth to every other computer on earth). So at least for the next 10 years or so, until machines take over, success in business will be determined by a company’s ability to attract, keep and grow top knowledge workers. This means that leadership, communications, culture and innovation are going to be even more critical in building the foundation of  sustainable business success.

3. As a global society we are going to be deeply challenged by some of the moral and economic issues raised by these advanced technological innovations. What do you do when entire industries disappear overnight? When millions of low level and middle-class jobs are replaced by machines? How do you feel about a world where everything is connected to the Internet, meaning that your every move, your every purchase, nearly everything you do is being tracked? What do you do when genetic coding and synthetic medicine allows people to live a healthy and productive life to age 120, 130 or more? What does that do to your workforce? How does that impact retirement? How do you manage a workforce that might span as much as five or six generations?

Some of you might feel that these questions are far-fetched, but I assure you they are not and I also assure you that if you plan to be in the workforce for the next 15 years, you are going to see some highly disruptive innovations that will significantly impact numerous industries. That also means that if you are a leader in one of those industries, you better start getting ready right now! Which brings me back to the three questions that Mark posed to the Global Peter Drucker Forum:

Should firms make the shift from the goal of maximizing shareholder value as measured by the current stock price to a principal focus on adding value to those for whom the work is being done?

YES: Short-term thinking to “maximize shareholder value” TODAY – often leads companies to make shortsighted decisions that will leave them exposed and unprepared just a few years down the road in this highly volatile and fluid business environment. It is my strong belief that successful leaders must have the ability and the courage to make strategic decisions today that may not pay off immediately, but will position their companies for success in 2025 and beyond. This is best not only for the shareholders, but for every constituency that the business serves from vendors and suppliers, to workers and managers, to the final consumer.

Should organizations make the shift from the practices of hierarchical bureaucracy to the collaborative leadership and management practices of the Creative Economy?

YES: The truth of the matter is they have no choice, the Millennial’s and the next generation after them (Generation Z? Generation C? The iGeneration?), disdain hierarchy and do not work well in a command-and-control culture. They crave independence, respect, personal and professional growth, a highly engaging culture, cool colleagues and meaningful, challenging work. You give them all of these things and fair pay (10% above or below what they would make to do the same job anyplace else) and you can absolutely attract and keep the top creative knowledge workers.

Should organizations make a shift from metrics that reflect narrow financial goals to metrics that reflect contributions to prosperity of individuals, organizations and society, for achieving both purpose and profit?

YES: I recently did a research study of 10,000 high performing employees at top companies around the world asking them what they look for in a leader they respect and would willingly follow. One of the seven core factors they identified was…Contribution. They wanted to work in an organization where the leader’s used their power, influence and access to resources to impact their community and the world in a positive way. For them the company values were as important as the company’s stock value. I also believe that as more and more company’s products become indistinguishable, many consumers are going to look to this metric (what many people call the triple bottom line) as the main reason they choose to do business with an organization.

I have been deeply honored in the last few years to be named as one of America’s Top Business Thought Leaders, but honestly I didn’t think that I was thinking anything all that special. I’m not really sure that I have added any significant thoughts to this topic, but what I will tell you is that all of us who are in business today need to spend some serious time thinking and acting on these critically important issues…they are going to be here must faster than you realize.

I’ll keep thinking and sharing my ideas – you do the same. Hope you found this helpful and if you did please share with your network – thanks – John


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

Building a High-Performance Team

shutterstock_46846525I was recently asked to work with a team of 12 mid-level managers in an organization of about 250 people. As individuals they were an incredibly bright, competent, diverse group that are clearly dedicated to the success of the company, as a “team” they were a disaster. Prior to meeting with them I had everyone fill out a “Team Effectiveness Audit” and the scores were…not so good. However, we had a wonderful day together and I thought you might find value in some of the things they developed for turning their workgroup into a high-performance team.

The first workshop we did was to create a model of who they felt would be an “Ideal Team Member” to serve on this team.

Ideal Team Member

·         Excellent Communicator – superb listener

·         Highly competent

·         Action oriented – proactive – sense of urgency

·         People/relationship focused

·         Balanced view: strategic & tactical

·         Team-first attitude

·         Strong, self-aware leader

·         High integrity

·         Personal and mutual accountability

·         Delivers business results

After we created the above list I pointed out to them that in order to attract a team member like this, they would first have to be like this themselves. It’s one of the key ideas for effective teams; A-players only want to be on a team with other A-players.

We then worked on creating a set of rules, or a charter, for how the team would treat each other. I think they developed a pretty good list…

Team Rules for Behavior

NO games

Be fully present – no technology/be engaged

Be flexible/consider

Hold each other 100% accountable

Use retrospect and focus on the effectiveness of this team and adherence to the rules

Offer inspiration

Be constructive/solution focused

Treat each other with respect

Focus on the success of the company – not your individual departmental team

Over-communicate with honesty and transparency

Prioritize each other and this team

ONE voice

Deal with facts

Effective / valuable meetings

Have FUN!!!

Lastly, we developed a few action steps that they could begin taking immediately to start the slow and steady process of shaping them into a more effective team and hopefully, eventually, a high-performance team.

Action Steps:

Create team vision/purpose (in progress)

Define key goals that align with the team purpose and that strategy / guiding principles of the organization

Define key metrics for those goals

Define how to hold each other accountable to those goals / metrics

Create ways to force collaboration

Evaluate team effectiveness quarterly

Once they finalize the vision/purpose of the team, and define their goals and metrics I will be creating a survey to measure their effectiveness in implementing their goals and continuing to adhere to the team rules of behavior. I will be administering the survey every three months so that we can constantly adjust as they develop as a team. Based on the quality of the people on this team I have a lot of confidence that things are going to go well.

I welcome your thoughts on what this team created; do you feel that there’s something missing?


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

My Gift To You For 2015

GTD_630822Well, here we are together, just a few days before the end of 2014. It’s a cliché, but how did the year go by so fast?

While this past year was a great year for my wife and I, and I hope it was for you too, for many people 2014 was an incredibly challenging and difficult year.

As a race we face many global problems and as a country we are currently struggling through one of the most divisive and divided eras in our history. These are big problems, very BIG. I do not know how to solve them but I do know this…

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

And I also know that WE have to solve them, we have gotten ourselves into this mess and we will have to get ourselves out of it. There is no magic wand, it is going to take a lot of hard work, tough decisions and sacrifice from everyone around the world – and that includes you and me!

So to help you look at things in a in a new way for 2015 here is a video with the highlights of some of the top TED Talks of 2014. I encourage you to watch this clip and then go watch any or all of the full videos, it is sure to shake up your thinking, which is the best gift I can give you as we head into the new year together. After all, it is up to us, WE have to drive the change we want to see in the world. A tall order indeed, but one we must all rise to embrace.

I wish you every possible happiness and success. Love, John

Two Life-Changing Books

I’d like to share with you two of my very favorite books that focus on how to be a great leader, a great person and to make a positive impact on the lives of others. It is my strong belief that if you lead a life of honesty, integrity, character and service that you will be a highly successful person, regardless of what your bank account looks like. I have also found that when you live this way, and focus on adding massive value to those around you, your bank account usually looks pretty good. So here are two books to help you focus on what I believe are some of the most important things for building a happy, balanced, joyful and extremely successful business and life.

Three Fantastic Business Books

In this video I share with you three fantastic business books that I have read and used in my businesses. Two are very focused, detail-oriented books that will give you superb step-by-step instruction and lots of tools to help grow your business and improve your culture. The third book is one that I consider a true classic that focuses on how to make your business one of the best in the world in your category. I hope you find this video of great value!

 

Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t (Rockefeller Habits 2.0)

The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace

Lessons in Excellence from Charlie Trotter


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence